Monday, October 10, 2005

Wk.40-Killer Kim, It's All Up to You

Roger Federer has already wrapped up this year's top ranking on the ATP tour, but the WTA honor is still up for grabs as the season enters its final five weeks. Thing is, three times since 2000 the women's #1-ranked player has somehow managed to go the season without actually winning a grand slam title. And now that prospect is looming as a possibility yet again in 2005.

Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Justine Henin-Hardenne, three of the four slam champions in the "year of the comeback" that '05 turned out to be, have no hope of claiming the top spot, due mostly to injury-related absences. Last week was a good example of what's ailed them: Serena effectively shut things down for the remainder of this season, Venus revoked her entry in the Moscow draw, and Queen Justine lost in her first return match since falling in the first week of the U.S. Open, where her game was uncharactistically sloppy after having missed so much time following her brilliant, but tiring, European clay season.

At the moment, Maria Sharapova is still holding onto the #1 ranking, but for all her positives she did not win a slam in 2005. Neither did #2-ranked Lindsay Davenport, whose Filderstadt title on Sunday got her to within just 69 points of the top ranking she's already held for 34 of this season's 40 weeks.

That leaves only #3-ranked U.S. Open champ Clijsters, in an ironic role reversal from her position in 2003, as the last hope to maintain some sort of meaningful "order" for women's tennis at the end of 2005. She had a chance to rise to #1 on Monday had she won Filderstadt, but the QF loss to Elena Dementieva that ended her 22-match winning streak put an end to that notion.

Isn't being crowned a slam champion supposed to mean something? Let's hope so. Finally, Clijsters can avoid the nasty specter of asterisks and the like and claim a well-earned perch above the field. Player of the Year honors are pretty much a given... now it's just a matter of bookkeeping to make sure that the "reality" of 2005 matches up with what'll be in the history books.

The odds are that it will, what with the Supernova having to defend her 2004 WTA Championship while Clijsters defends nothing in the final weeks. But it's difficult not to be a bit "nervous" after Filderstadt saw Clijsters stumble rather than seize the moment, while Davenport (already a year-ending #1 in '01 and '04 without having won slams) slipped in through the front door and won her fiftieth career title. The occasional top-ranked "oddity" is one thing, but when it becomes a seeming rule of law things just aren't kosher.

Come on, Kim. It's all up to you.

S: Lindsay Davenport d. Amelie Mauresmo 6-2/6-4
D: Hantuchova/Myskina d. Peschke/Schiavone
S: Nicole Vaidisova d. Tatiana Golovin 7-6/3-2 ret.
D: Dulko/Kirilenko d. Asagoe/Vento-Kabchi
S: Michaella Krajicek d. Akgul Amanmuradova 6-0/4-6/6-3
D: Camerin/Loit d. Rodionova/Voskoboeva


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lindsay Davenport
...her defense of her Filderstadt title made Davenport the ninth women to win 50 WTA singles titles in her career. Coupled with her Bali crown her last time out, she's got an eight-match winning streak and is 16-1 in her last seventeen.
RISERS: Elena Dementieva & Tatiana Golovin
...Dementieva lost in the Filderstadt SF to Davenport, but her QF victory over Clijsters, ending the Belgian's 22-match streak, was dubbed by Punch-Sober as the "best match (she's) ever played." Golovin forged ahead in her last-minute attempt to make her '05 season more worthwhile, using her recently-building momentum to take out both Ai Sugiyama and Sania Mirza to reach the Tokyo final, her first of the season after losing all four of her previous SF matches in 2005. She finally hit the wall in the final, though, retiring in the 2nd set against Vaidisova.
SURPRISE: Akgul Amanmuradova
...the 21-year old Uzbeki wild card who opened the week by knocking out #2-seed Alyona Bondarenko in Tashkent carried her run all the way to her first-ever WTA final just weeks after losing in the U.S. Open's first round of qualifying to "whatever happened to...?" candidate Rita Kuti Kis. At #257, Amanmuradova was the lowest-ranked finalist on tour this season.
VETERAN: Lindsay Davenport
...sure, Davenport, 29, is just 69 points behind #1 Sharapova, and her five titles this season trail only Clijsters' eight. But it should be noted that not only are none of the titles grand slams, but none are Tier I's, either. She can't end the season at #1 again without taking a slam, can she?
FRESH FACES: Nicole Vaidisova & Michaella Krajicek
...the 16-year olds ruled two-thirds of the roost this week. Vaidisova won her second title in two weeks (and already the fourth of her career) in Tokyo, and moved into the Top 20 (#18) for the first time on Monday. Meanwhile, Krajicek won her first career title in Tashkent, outlasting Amanmuradova in three sets. Ranked #82 going into the tournament, Richard's little sister emerged as the season's youngest first-time WTA champ.
DOWN: Justine Henin-Hardenne
...what's happened to the Queen since winning Roland Garros? Did the clay court season really take that much out of her? Since then, she's gone a mediocre (for her, at least) 7-4, lost her opening match twice (including in Filderstadt, to Flavia Pennetta) and her game's looked pretty ragged at times even when she's managed to win. She's stated that she plans to devise a schedule that gives herself more rest in 2006... so consider 2005 a lesson that will hopefully lead to a more consistent season next year.


1.Fild QF - Dementieva d. Clijsters
...6-3/3-6/6-2. Hmmm... in 2004 she becomes a slam finalist. In 2005, she leads Russia to the Fed Cup title. Following the progression, does Punch-Sober become the fourth Horde slam champion in 2006? This match is a good sign.
2.Fild Final - Davenport d. Mauresmo
...6-2/6-4. Davenport is 3-0 vs. Mauresmo this season, with two of the victories coming in finals.
3.Tokyo Final - Vaidisova d. Golovin
...7-6/3-2 ret. Vaidisova's riding a 10-match winning streak. She did say people who don't get upset when they lose don't win very often. Well Nicole gets very upset, and she's starting to lose less and less all the time. Guess she's practicing what she preaches.
4.Fild 2nd - Myskina d. Safina
...7-6/6-7/7-5. The Czarina won the knock-down, drag out all-Russian battle, overcoming a 4-5 3rd set deficit. Unfortunately, she then went on to drop a three-setter to Davenport in the QF in her final tuneup before returning to Moscow to defend the title she's won the past two years.
5.Fild 2nd - Pennetta d. JHH
...6-4/6-3. She has all the guts in the world, but something hasn't been right with Justine the last few months.
6.Tash Final - Krajicek d. Amanmuradova
...6-0/4-6/6-3. The mad late-season rush of teenaged champions continues.
7.Tokyo SF - Vaidisova d. Kirilenko; Golovin d. Mirza
...just call it the "all-promising talent" semifinals. They could all be in the Top 15-20 (Vaidisova already is) by this time next year.
8.Tokyo QF - Mirza d. Zvonareva
...5-7/6-2/6-4. Still, it was a good week for Zvonareva. She got two wins over Shahar Peer and Catalina Castano before Mirza took her out.
9.Fild SF - Davenport d. Hantuchova
...6-4/6-3. There wasn't enough room for Wonder Girl to slip into the Week 40 "Risers," but she had a very good week nonetheless. She got wins over Schnyder and Pennetta in singles, and won the doubles with Myskina.
10.Fild 1st - Dechy d. Molik
...6-3/6-3. The Steamer is due a good draw. She did draw a qualifier in the 1st Round in Moscow... but it turned out to be fellow Aussie Samantha Stosur.
HM-Fild 1st - Petrova d. Groenefeld
...6-3/6-2. The Empress gets a little revenge for Luxembourg.
HM-Tash 1st - Tulyaganova d. Savchuk
...6-2/6-2. The tour stopped off in Uzbekistan, so Iroda made another appearance on the WTA winner's sheet last week. She qualified and got a main draw win, keeping her name in everyone's memory bank despite that #363 ranking (lower than that of the quickly-disappearing player who used to be known as "Jelena Dokic" last week, which is saying something).


167...Martina Navratilova
154...Chris Evert
107...Steffi Graf
92....Margaret Court
68....Evonne Goolagong
67....Billie Jean King
55....Virginia Wade
53....Monica Seles
50....Lindsay Davenport

9....Lindsay Davenport (5-4)
8....Clijsters (8-0)
5....Henin-Hardenne (4-1)
5....Mauresmo (2-3)

**MOST 2005 WTA SF**
9...Davenport (9-0)
9....Clijsters (8-1)
9....Mauresmo (5-4)
9....Sharapova (4-5)

Memphis - Vera Zvonareva
Amelia Island - Lindsay Davenport
Rome - Amelie Mauresmo
Birmingham - Maria Sharapova
Palermo - Anabel Medina-Garrigues
Filderstadt - Lindsay Davenport

16y,5mo,1wk - Nicole Vaidisova (Seoul)
16y,5mo,2wk - Nicole Vaidisova (Tokyo AIG)
16y,9mo - Michaella Krajicek (Tashkent)*
17y,2mo,1wk - Ana Ivanovic (Canberra)*
*- first-time champion

#257 Akgul Amanmuradova (Tashkent-L)
#193 Lourdes Dominguez-Lino (Bogota-L)
#163 Zi Yan (Guangzhou-W)
#155 Lucie Safarova (Estoril-W)



...the Backspin Prediction Corner has had a rollercoaster season while trying to fight back from that horrendous first few months of the season. But, what is this, could "respectability" be within reach in the closing weeks of 2005?

A 7-for-12 4Q record has raised the "Champions" mark to within shouting range of past seasons:

2001: 15-for-49 (30.6%)
2002: 17-for-67 (25.4%)
2003: 25-for-64 (39.1%)
2004: 27-for-64 (42.2%)
2005: 19-for-59 (32.2%)

There's still some work to do, but with eight events left a 50% predition clip would allow this space a huge sigh of relief for what at one time looked like it was going to be a verrrrrry long season.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (I-Supreme Indoor)
04 F: Myskina d. Dementieva
05 TOP: Sharapova/Mauresmo
SF: Pierce d. Sharapova; Dementieva d. Mauresmo
FINAL: Dementieva d. Pierce

...if Punch-Sober's progression is to continue, why shouldn't it be at the expense of her U.S. Open "injury-timeout" rival Pierce? Sharapova's returning to Moscow this week, and for a little hint at what she's planning for her future make sure to check out the "Link of the Week."

--new event--
05 TOP: Petrova/Vaidisova
SF: Petrova d. Asagoe; Vaidisova d. Mirza
FINAL: Petrova d. Vaidisova

...Petrova has to win that first title at some point, why not here? Vaidisova has to be too tired for a back-to-back-to-back title run.

The Tennisrulz Reader Awards ballot is now online! Be sure to vote! Last year, fans from over 100 different countries did!

All for now.


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